On four separate occasions early in his medical career, Kentucky state Sen. Ralph Alvarado — who has proudly branded himself as a “Doctor Who Wants to Stand Up for Kentucky Families” — came under scrutiny by the state Board of Medical Licensure for various infractions, including verbally abusing a patient and her family and not keeping up with requirements for his license.

Records from the board obtained by the American Ledger added to an emerging — and at times troubling — picture about Alvarado, a rising Republican star who spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention and is now Gov. Matt Bevin’s running mate.

Alvarado, who was raised in California, completed his residency at the University of Kentucky hospital in Lexington and began practicing in nearby Winchester.

In 2004, the same year Alvarado was fined $400 for not completing continuing-education requirements, a patient’s relative alleged that Alvarado admonished her then-73-year-old sister in a “10-15 minute tirade” after she requested to be transferred to a different facility after hip surgery.

She claimed Alvarado told them the hospital was “incompetent” because it was “not-for-profit and did not have to answer to anyone.” “Patients are supposed to have the right of choice, feeling of security, and right to participate in care, not be verbally harassed,” she wrote in her complaint.

Alvarado wrote a five-page response, claiming he had concerns about the facility in question and that the complaint was “politically motivated” because the the patient’s relative was an employee there.

“I feel that my comments were professional, with the intent of informing my patient of potential hazards. In this way, she would be able to make a more complete and informed decision regarding her medical care,” he wrote. “I would be unable to maintain a large successful practice by ‘intimidating’ patients and their families.”

The board found that there was “insufficient evidence of a violation” but voted to send a “letter expressing their concern regarding this incident” to Alvarado, according to the records.

“The Panel members asked me to express their concern that it is inappropriate for you to degrade Clark County Regional Medical Center to patients and their families,” the board’s acting chair, Randel C. Gibson, wrote in a letter to Alvarado after the vote.

In another instance, in 2000, the Kentucky Cabinet for Health Services’ Drug Control Branch alerted the board that Alvarado’s nurse practitioner was improperly prescribing drugs over the phone.

According to the board’s meeting minutes, members voted to publicly admonish Alvarado and “directed that an article be published in the Board’s Newsletter concerning the appropriate supervision of (nurse practitioners).”

In 2002, the Board of Medical Licensure sent another letter of concern to Alvarado after a patient alleged he discharged them before following up with a chest X-ray that was properly required.

Alvarado’s medical career has come under scrutiny after Bevin named him his running mate in January ahead of November’s election.

In February, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported that federal prosecutors found that Alvarado and 23 other doctors took “illicit” gifts to refer Medicare patients to a home-health company. Alvarado and the other doctors were not charged in the case, though prosecutors wrote that they referred patients to the company “in violation of federal law.”

The Ledger reported that Alvarado received more than $14,000 in consulting and speaking fees from pharmaceutical
giant GlaxoSmithKline while federal prosecutors were examining its marketing practices.

In 2012, the Justice Department and the company reached a $3 billion settlement for its “failure to report certain safety data” and “sponsored dinner programs, lunch programs, spa programs and similar activities” for doctors “to promote the use of Paxil in children and adolescents.”

In 2017, Alvarado championed a bill requiring malpractice suits against nursing homes to go through “medical review panels” of doctors while he was employed as the medical director at five nursing homes. The bill became law but was struck down by the Kentucky Supreme Court last year, according to the Herald-Leader.

Contact Cole Driver at cdriver@american-ledger.org